Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Will Require Passengers to Wear Masks Indoors Due to Rising Onboard Cases

"Despite the new requirement, we know you will still have a great time on board," a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told T+L.

A pair of popular cruise lines have strengthened their mask protocols amid the emergence of the highly contagious omicron variant and following outbreaks of the coronavirus on board their ships.

Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line will require masks to be worn indoors except when eating or drinking going forward.

For its part, Royal Caribbean's new mask rules replace its previous policy of not requiring the face coverings in the vaccinated-only spaces on its ships, company spokeswoman Lyan Sierra-Caro told Travel + Leisure.

"With the recent uptick of COVID-19 in the world and added Omicron variant concerns, we feel it prudent to temporarily tighten our onboard health protocols to require masks indoors at all times, unless actively eating or drinking," the cruise line wrote in an advisory shared with guests and provided to T+L. "We're sorry for any disappointment that this may cause, but hope you understand that health and safety come first. Despite the new requirement, we know you will still have a great time onboard."

The decision also comes as 48 guests and crew tested positive for COVID-19 on the company's Symphony of the Seas ship that docked on Saturday, Sierra-Caro confirmed to T+L. Each person who tested positive had either mild symptoms or was asymptomatic, and was identified through contact tracing after a guest tested positive. The ship has since departed on a new voyage.

Royal Caribbean International’s brand new ship, Harmony of the Seas, departed on her maiden voyage from her new permanent homeport of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Michel Verdure/Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

While Royal Caribbean only requires guests 12 and older to be vaccinated, Sierra-Caro said the ship sailed with 95% of people fully vaccinated.

Norwegian, which mandates 100% of guests and crew be vaccinated to sail and did not previously require masks be worn, will now mandate face coverings for sailings through Dec. 19, according to the cruise line. The decision also comes amid an outbreak of coronavirus on board its Norwegian Breakaway ship in which at least 17 passengers and crew tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, including a South African crew member who Norwegian Cruise Line said was "suspected" to be infected with the omicron variant.

A representative for Norwegian did not immediately respond to a request for comment from T+L.

Norwegian has required all passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated to sail since April, a policy the company has fought to defend in court and extended "indefinitely."

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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